Brainstorming can be a difficult process, especially at a company with offices in multiple locations. Email is only efficient to a point, and writing everything down can lead to a cluttered mess. It’s possible to create digital flow charts and graphs to better organize the facets of your idea, but creating and customizing them can consume time and put a halt on the brainstorming process altogether.
Enter MindMeister, a free mind-mapping software that allows users to quickly and easily translate ideas from their heads onto a clear and organized flow chart.
How It Works
The software is simple to use and easy to pick up after a few minutes of practice. Begin with a central idea, then use the Enter button to create a similar branch or the Tab button to extend a new branch off the original idea. After writing every facet of the idea out, it is possible to go back and customize the layout. Every bubble can be customized with different text sizes, colors and images. You can also add notes, links, videos or other important information to each entry so the chart remains simple and efficient.
The maps can be shared with multiple contributors. When someone else is editing the map, his or her name will appear on screen and changes will be made in real time, much like a Google Doc. The map is also useful for presentation, as it can be expanded outward or folded inward, and any last-minute edits are easy to integrat.
MindMeister can be used for a number of situations outside of the business world, too. Writers can use the map to plan out their novels or research, branch out with new scenes, quotes and pictures to aid in the creative process. It can be an effective tool in problem solving, where you and other users can create several branches for pros and cons and explore different options together. The software can even be used to assign and organize chores and calendars or plan a family vacation.
A Quick Tutorial
To begin mapping, just start with your central idea, like planning a trip to San Francisco, as shown above. Press Tab and then Enter in order to start making branches, like “Things to do,” “Shopping” or “Day Plan.” From there, pressing Tab will give you the ability to break off those initial branches to refine those thoughts. For Shopping, pressing Tab will allow to input an entry, such as “Bloomingdales.” Pressing Enter after it will create another branch in the same thought as the first entry so you can add, in this case, another store like “Union Square/Macy’s.” You can continue adding new branches by pressing the Tab key as many times as needed.
Either for emphasis or aesthetic value, you can add graphics and different colors to various entries, like the frowning face icon on the “Things to avoid” branch. These can be found in the top left-hand corner menu, under the “Icons” tab. Changing font size or color is in the same menu, under the “Text Formatting” tab — just be sure to select the text you want altered first.
You can sign up for a free account and you can create, save and share mind maps or you can try a demo to see how it works for yourself before signing up.